HealthWatch: Green Tea

Dr. Holly Phillips
NEW YORK (CBS) ― The medical community just can't seem to stop raving about green tea, and new research shows the 3,000-year-old beverage has yet another health benefit. It may dramatically lower your risk of developing lung cancer.

For Gwendolyn Walker, green tea is her morning good mood elixir. "I drink green tea in the morning. I will make a brewed cup, take on my express bus on the way to work," she said. "When I get to work I find that I'm more energized and a lot more lighter and 'free-er'."

Her choice of morning beverage is also giving a boost to her health. A new study shows green tea lowers the risk of lung cancer especially in those who smoke.

"They report a 12-fold decrease in the risk of developing lung cancer which on face value is pretty significant," said thoracic surgeon Dr. Faiz Bhora, M.D. of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital.

Non-smokers also had a five-fold decreased risk of developing lung cancer. And these effects were seen with just one cup a day.

Green tea is full of powerful antioxidants known as catechins. The compounds are thought to protect our DNA from illnesses such as cancer and even natural processes like aging.

"From our own laboratory one of my colleagues has shown that a large dose of green tea can prevent the development of abdominal aortic aneurysm," Bhora said.

Other studies have found the tea lowers cholesterol, burns fat, and prevents heart disease and stroke. And overall it's safe. It does contain caffeine, but less than some other beverages.

"To get into the doses of caffeine that would be akin to drinking tea or coffee, I think we're looking at about seven or eight cups," said Bhora.

For Walker, good health starts with her morning cup. "I just feel good that it's going to help us in the long run," she said.

Antioxidants similar to those in green tea are also found in foods, such as berries, flaxseed, red wine and even chocolate, but the compounds are especially concentrated in tea, so drinking just a cup or two each day appears to be enough to make a difference.